Rongchao Jin and Li Liu are learning to balance life with their 2-year-old daughter, Evanna, and their busy schedules as graduate students. Liu went to China in May to get the child, who had been staying with Liu’s parents. “Previously we had time to travel or go out to a movie or enjoy a restaurant,” says Jin. “For now, we have to stop thinking of those things!”

Photo by Andrew Campbell

A Family Affair
To keep their busy graduate student lives on track, Rongchao Jin and his wife, Li Liu, put a great deal of structure into their days. Every morning Liu leaves early to catch the Northwestern shuttle bus from Evanston to Chicago, where she is a graduate student in the Feinberg School of Medicine. Her husband, who is pursuing a PhD in chemistry, walks to his lab in the Center for Nanofabrication and Molecular Self-Assembly.

The first one home in the evening, Jin prepares dinner and the next day’s lunches. After an hour to eat and catch up on each other’s day, the couple settles in for an evening of study, often until 1 or 2 in the morning.

That was the routine, at any rate, until May, when Liu traveled to her parents’ home in China to bring back their 2-year-old daughter, Evanna, for whom the grandparents had been caring. The plan had been to get the child several months later when Jin finished school, but the date was moved up because of the SARS outbreak.

“Our lives are going to be very different,” Liu said in May, just after returning from China. “It’s going to be a lot of tough work.” They’ve had to arrange health insurance for Evanna and weekday child care. The new arrival is bound to take time away from their studies. Liu, a medical doctor in China, is working toward a PhD in biomedical science, studying factors that relate to obesity and diabetes.

Jin works in the field of nanoscience, researching how nanoparticles can be used as a diagnostic tool with medical and biological applications that are faster, less expensive and more accurate than existing technologies. He has been published in scientific journals, secured patents for his work and won two of the most prestigious awards in the country in chemistry and materials science. He hopes to eventually find a position at an American university where he can teach and continue his research.


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